Two things you need when your diet and motivation are no longer working

The other day, I asked my readers to tell me what their struggles are. This comment struck me, as it is a common issue I hear from women.
 “I am one of those girls who hopes to see results within a week. I do not know how to keep motivated. I have people all around me saying I don’t need to lose any inches and that I’m so fit. I am the farthest thing from fit health wise not weight wise. But people think if you are even remotely small that you’re fit. I can’t control my eating habits – I have tried to plan menus and things but it does not seem to work. I just want to be healthier. And I need to lose like 2 inches or so off my stomach and about an inch off my thighs. Please help!”
2011_08_16_22_30_21_390There was a time when I was still searching for the missing link to attaining true body change, beyond just weight loss. I was exercising and eating better and had lost weight, but I still didn’t feel great. I knew how to “diet” but I didn’t know how to make that work for me when I was more in shape and had less weight to lose. I felt stuck and confused. There had to be more to health and fitness than what all the popular magazines suggested, like parking farther away from the mall entrance and trading your Skittles for raisins. I was beyond needing to change habits like that, yet I felt that I still had more to accomplish.
I had to move past that point of frustration into a place that allowed me to take it to the next levelpics 315moving my mentality from just looking for ways to get a better body, but to find a true sense of wellness and vitality. I now work with women every day who have similar goals. Most of them have a pretty good idea what healthy eating and exercise looks like – most are already doing most of that. Where the struggle lies, is how to do it consistently and willingly each and every day, even when there isn’t the joy and satisfaction of seemingly immediate results.
Significant physical progress can provide good motivation when you are first starting out and start to make effective changes. But at a certain point, that initial level of progress stalls or tapers off. It’s easy to get frustrated and to lose that high level of motivation. Sometimes we are unsure of the “next step” and instead of moving forward, we simply step away.
 There comes a point when it is no longer about losing weight and dieting. Most people miss this shift and mistake it for failure or falling off wagon. It is not that. The game has just changed and you haven’t moved up to play with the big guys. What I realized back then was that I had to choose to change a few things about myself – and particularly about my mindset. There are two components you can embrace in order to take your progress to the next level:
POWER AND KNOWLEDGE
Notice that I didn’t say “stricter meal plan” and “more cardio”….
Here’s why: 
1.     POWER 
Stop saying “I can’t”. You can find time to exercise. You can choose how and what to eat. You can be the happy, slim person you want to be RIGHT NOW, you don’t have to wait til you’re a certain size. You have the power to do and be all the things you are aspiring to be. It took me a long time to see myself as THAT woman. As the one who CHOOSES health over pleasure. As the one who exercises on holidays just because I love it.
I would stand in my own way of becoming the me I wanted to be because that’s not what others expected of me – heck, that’s not what I expected from me either…but the missing link was choosing to move from my comfortable shell that allowed me a state of inconspicuous mediocrity and safety and embrace the PURSUIT and EMPOWERMENT of what I wanted for ME.2011_08_04_11_05_20_506
At some point, there must be a shift from external motivation (fitness classes, diet programs and books, advice, etc) to pursuing that motivation from within YOURSELF. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to your own health and satisfaction with your own body. Harnessing this power allows you to accept where you have come from, what you have already achieved, and most importantly what you will do to maintain it or take it to the next level.
Taking it to the next level means that there is a commitment to more than just a “plan” – it means looking at yourself as a “project” instead. A plan takes the position of going from Point A to Point B. A project is something that takes time and cultivation until you get it just right. The result doesn’t necessarily happen within a time frame. A plan can be passive – either you’re on or you’re off. A project is on-going and requires time and effort and could be considered a labour of love.
I made this shift in my own life after many years of believing that I would always be the girl who loved chocolate and pizza and could never be really fit or wear skinny jeans. Up until that point, I could *get by* doing some of the “right” things, but it would only last until I lost my motivation to continue with the plan. Eventually that started to change when I realized that no one could make the choices for me and that I actually had to ENJOY a life of health and a slimmer body – not continue to mourn the fact that I could no longer eat chocolate and pizza whenever I felt like it. I realized how much POWER is in that!! A change in perspective – your mindset – is the most powerful tool you have to take it to the next level.
 
Fit, slim healthy people actually ENJOY and actively PURSUE their lifestyle. No one tells them what to do, they make it happen whether they feel like it or not 🙂
 2.     KNOWLEDGE
You don’t have to read books and research papers here. You have to get to know YOURSELF. At some point, even the best meal plan in the world won’t work for you if it isn’t actually working for YOU. I have competed twice in figure bodybuilding shows. In order to do that, you must manipulate your diet and exercise in such a way that you build muscle and lose fat and get very, very lean. I did that to the best of my ability both times – the first time I got quite lean and reached my goal to be a certain weight and size. However, I felt terrible and the regime I had to do to keep me there was not sustainable in any way for real life. Because of those factors, I gained a ton of weight back after the show (way more than what I started with) and spent six months fixing my metabolism. The second show was very different: I did not go to such extremes in my diet and training. I had to become super-aware of what my body needed and what would keep it healthy, instead of just focusing on the end result. In the end, I was not as lean as the first time but I felt GREAT and I did not deal with the rebound effect again. It was a matter of deciding what I really wanted: aggressively pursuing a goal that was not realistic or sustainable for me, or being able to enjoy my life and find a better sense of wellness through that process.
 I find that many people have goals which are very often focused on just the end result. They tell me they need to lose so many pounds, or would like to get a flatter stomach. These aren’t women who are particularly unhealthy or even obese. But there is a blind pursuit of an arbitrary goal that many times has no reflection on any other thing than simply reaching THAT number. There is an expectation that this is some sort of “ideal” that must be attained, and for no other reason than for personal satisfaction. Believe me, even if you achieve that result it will NOT make you happier, richer, or more beautiful in the long run.
And by rich, I mean EN-riched. Knowledge enriches you. It makes you better. A number doesn’t inherently make you better. Learning, growing, pursuing a higher level makes you better, and maybe even healthier. I had done everything according to the “plan” to get me lean enough for the first show, but in the end it really had nothing to do with me. It didn’t mean anything except hitting those goals so I could get on stage. And it didn’t / couldn’t last. The second show was my “project” – I took what I knew about myself and applied it to a workable agenda. When it didn’t seem right, I explored new options and took the risk to try new things. The process changed from just “sticking with it”, to finding the WHY’s and the HOW’s and applying them to my life and adapting them into my lifestyle. I was able to make QUALITY progress by investing MYSELF into the project, rather than simply taking advice on how to get there the fastest. I still achieved a great result and changed my body in all the ways I wanted, but I went about it with a very different mindset. So think about your own goals now.
Going back to how to stay motivated to take it to the next level, consider whether you have been attempting to stick to a plan or whether you see yourself as a project. Since switching my mentality to that of a project, I have learned that those arbitrary numerical obligations I pushed on myself way back in my early days of discovery actually have no relation to what is realistic for ME. They looked really good on paper but they do not reflect a measure of physical or emotional health, nor do they represent a balanced, joyful life.
I do not rely on numbers or plans or ideas anymore….I am fully committed to the project that is ME. I am ever-changing and organic – I have gained respect for what my best health is for the best body I can sustain. There is no plan for that; I seek the power and empowerment to do what works best for ME and I choose to stay knowledgeable about the qualities that allow me to stay fit, healthy, trim, and happy.
HOW DO YOU FIND MOTIVATION TO TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL? 
 1.     It’s your choice. You either do the things that lend themselves to a better version of yourself, or you choose to believe that you “can’t”.
 2.     Find another reason than a number. Challenge yourself physically. Help and motivate others. Seek power and knowledge over your health. Do the things that make you FEEL better – that is more valuable than any number in the end.
 3.     Realize you have the power to change. Other people may not understand why you can’t stay the same, but your health and happiness is about what is happening to YOU, not them. You make the choices that give you the best outcome.
 4.     Remember that there is no time frame. Forget about looking for immediate results – just like a watched kettle never boils. Become part of the process and seek to enjoy figuring it all out. You are not a victim of the “I can’t change anything” society. Keep working, keep searching, keep moving. It’s there, it just might not look like what you expected 🙂

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